Hezbollah militia and Lebanese Shiites eye Christian property, activists warn of demographic change through government actions

LEBANON ꟷ In an article for the newspaper Nidaa Al-Watan, journalist Tony Karam has highlighted the troubling issue of land and property sales in predominantly Christian areas, sales which regularly come back to the table. Karam reports that social activists have shed light on government plans to transfer community assets in Christian villages in Mount Lebanon to the state in preparation for public sale. With the exacerbation of the financial crisis in the country and the collapse of the banking sector, the Lebanese government is in high need of funds to pay off Central Bank debts and handle cash deposit withdrawals.

Activists such as Dr. Amine Jules Iskandar and Dr. Fouad Abu Nader warn of systematic encroachment schemes and purchases of land and property in Christian areas which are bringing about demographic change and alter the demographic identity of those areas, in favor of certain partisan parties not least the Shiite Hezbollah militia and its followers. These partisan actors desire geographical expansion whether through repeated encroachments on land and commons or through the systematic purchase of Christian property.

A recent example is the sale by the abbot of the Monastery of Saint Anthony, who sold Antonine Order land in the town of Al-Hadat – Baabda to parties allegedly operating in Hezbollah’s orbit. Residential real estate will be built on the land. Tony Karam reports on other land encroachments that may be taking place in the town of Andaqet in northern Lebanon, in Aqoura and on Church lands in Afqa and Lassa (Jbeil outskirts). The reports of the sale of monastery property and construction of residential properties come weeks after some Beirut MPs warned that a bank will sell part of its real estate portfolio near Sassine Square – Ashrafieh, to “foreign” buyers who, allegedly, are close to or belong to Hezbollah. Such individual property sales in Beirut and other sectarian and Christian areas are difficult to track down.

Tony Karam points out that such systematic purchasing schemes open the door to manipulation and jeopardize the stability of the real estate sector. And it poses an equal if not greater risk than the risks associated with the economic and financial collapse of Lebanese society, officials declare.

In his article, Tony Karam cites activists such as Dr. Amine Jules Iskandar, Dr. Fouad Abu Nader, MP Jihad Pakradouni, and Talal Douaihy. They say that the property of Christians in Mount Lebanon, Beirut and other Lebanese regions is a point of great interest to the Hezbollah militia and Lebanese Shiites. They therefore call for the protection of the commons of Christian villages and the preservation of their properties and a greater effort to protect the Christian presence in Lebanon and the region.